Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Two afternoons in NYC (A real New Yorker's favorite hangouts!)

Aalayam peeps! 

Its gorgeous outside!! Are you ready for some traveling yet? If yes, let me take you on a tour of New York City. I just got back after an enlightening visit. Enlightening because, this time, I tried to enjoy New York, the real New Yorker's way!


By Supriya

I have always felt a connection with New York City. The hustle and bustle of the streets, the cityscapes, the lights, the glamor and the spirit of Manhattan, the architecture and rustic beauty of Brooklyn, have fed my wanderlust and nourished my soul. I have been a frequent visitor to the city, and I intend to keep it that way - In the city, I have been a giddy honeymooner every time I have been there, I have met friends, soaked in the sights, shopped for knock offs, gotten my picture drawn by a street side artist, lost my phone in the restroom of a Japanese Cake name it. 

What I had not done, until last Saturday, was eat at Grimaldi's, The Hole in the Wall Pizza joint that purportedly has made Brooklyn famous. Yes, last Saturday, I solemnly participated in a rite of passage ritual that made me a "New Yorker".

So, what's the big fuss about Grimaldi's? Let me start at the very beginning. Brooklyn Bridge is one of my most favorite bridges in the world. I first walked across the Bridge, from Manhattan to Brooklyn, with my husband and have gone back multiple times to walk to the other side to DUMBO. DUMBO, an acronym for Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass, is a neighborhood in the New York City, New York, borough of Brooklyn. DUMBO is historic and beautiful. The views of The Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges from the park down there is phenomenal. 

The lines in front of the innocuous looking pizza joint on Old Fulton Street are even more phenomenal. I scoffed when I first saw the line. "Who wants to stand in line for Pizza?" I wondered aloud! "There are dozens of joints out there which serve your New York Style thin crust pizza". That was the first time! When I saw the same long lines the next time, at a different time of day, I was mildly surprised, and even a touch intrigued. I did not scoff as loudly this time. The third time I saw the lines, I made a mental note to eat at Grimaldi's the NEXT TIME!! And eat I did. I planned a whole trip around eating at Grimaldi's, orchestrated an elaborate plan to get away with my husband to the city without the kids and even quelled voices in my head that were prompting me to walk away AGAIN from the long line!!

Grimaldi's is an institution. There is an "establishment" quotient attached to the whole Grimaldi's experience. So much so, that there is a restaurant manager who walks out every time a table is freed up to say how many people can get in next. "Party of Two", "Party of Three" and so on..Since all the tables at Grimaldi's, we found out later, were four seaters, the likelihood of "party of two" being called often was low..!! We waited in line for about 40 minutes and figured out, that the self important manager , who held our gastronomic future in his hand that day, would not call on us, a party of two, unless we teamed up with another party of two!! This serendipitous pairing was suggested by Kenny, one of the "two" - Kenny and Maureen, a most adorable couple we met on the sidewalk line. We literally jumped at that idea, (I actually tripped on the rope holding the queue in place!) and headed inside into the hallowed couloirs of the pizza joint. The pizza did not disappoint. Neither did the character and the spirit of the place. We sat amidst the star dust of the LA, NY glitterati showcased in the inner sanctum. We felt like celebrities ourselves. We were served by wait staff who looked that they had just stepped out of rustic Venetian culinary establishments. We literally were rubbing shoulders with other diners and no one seemed to be complaining. It was as if everyone knew everyone else, as if the experience of standing in line, and being "chosen" to get inside had unified us in some sort of holy, happy, pizza code.

The Grimaldi's business model is simple and effective: A standard menu with limited toppings ensure that orders are fulfilled and the diners are in and out in expediently. Coal fired brick oven pizzas keep the taste of the pizza a unique selling proposition. The charm and the character of the place enhance the Grimaldi's brand value. And of course, there is the New York love for anything eclectic and offbeat. I think customers keep going back to eat at Grimaldi's not because they have the greatest pizza, but because of the charm associated with the whole experience.

The next day, I spent the whole afternoon walking around the High Line Park - the coolest public park built on a historic freight rail line elevated above the streets on Manhattan’s West Side. This park runs from Gansevoort Street in the Meatpacking District to West 34th Street, between 10th and 11th Avenues. But we started our trip with food. Of course!

No surprises there, knowing me. First stop - Cafe Gitane at the Jane Hotel. Decor and eclectic flair exemplar! I will let the pictures speak for themselves here. I have a feeling I am rambling a bit too much!

I did not need a cajoling to finish up my vegetables in this eatery! And I needed the energy for my trek through High Line Park.

This beautiful, and "I never knew about" park was founded in 1999 by community residents, Friends of the High Line fought for the High Line’s preservation and transformation at a time when the historic structure was under the threat of demolition. It is now the non-profit conservancy working with the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation to make sure the High Line is maintained as an extraordinary public space for all visitors to enjoy.

And enjoy we did, with cool ice candies (watermelon for me please), concrete and granite stone benches to sit around and enjoy, water sprinklers to cool off on hot afternoons (we did see some nekkid toddlers running around the sprinklers without a care in the world!), and flowers! In the middle of NYC. This park was sure a respite midst the concrete jungle!

Raise a glass, because Terroir at The Porch – the High Line's open-air café was the oasis comfort we needed on that arid Sunday afternoon. With sweeping views of the Hudson River that you can enjoy while enjoying savory dishes and crisp drinks from Terroir's outstanding wine and beer list, artisanal wineries and breweries from New York State pour unfettered here!. Terroir at The Porch is located on the High Line at West 15th Street. A definite do-not-miss destination! That's me below in High Line Park, cooling off after a drink! 

Next stop - some boho shopping at Chelsea Market - A block long and a block wide and just a short walk from the Hudson River in the area of Manhattan known as the Meatpacking District, Chelsea Market has become in just fifteen years one of the greatest indoor food halls of the world, with more than thirty-five vendors purveying everything from soup to nuts, wine to coffee, cheese to cheesecake.

Attracting 6 million national and international visitors annually, it is one of the most trafficked, and written-about, destinations of any kind in New York City. Chelsea Market is a neighborhood market with a global perspective. It was my first time there, and I fell in love!

Right up my alley, would you say? Spices, junk jewelry, ornate antique decor....wait until you see my future posts ladies - you will see stuff that I picked from Chelsea Market!

The area has always been the locus of food in the city, beginning with the Algonquin Indians, who traded their game and crops on the banks of the Hudson River at this same spot. The trains of the High Line once served the wholesale butchers who lined the streets beneath the tracks and cooled their provisions with blocks of Hudson River ice, and the National Biscuit Company established its factory—now reclaimed as the Chelsea Market—here to take advantage of the butchers’ lard in the nineteenth century. 

This long history—and the stripped-down brick architecture of the building—gives the Market a unique character. For foodies and even casual tourists, it is possible to enter the Market at one end in the morning and not exit the other until lunchtime, without ever growing bored—and certainly without ever going hungry.

We shopped and mingled with some of New York’s trendiest designers and independent retailers, also checking out Artists & Fleas from all over New York gathered in this bustling market.

Aaah.. What a sensory explosion, last weekend was. Buono Sera, my dear New York City. For now at least. I am glad that I got to share you and all your insider hangouts here at Aalayam.

Be sure to check these locales and eateries out when you are in Brooklyn or NYC next time folks. Until then, let me enjoy my Java Frappucino.



  1. Lovely! I should plan a trip soon :)

  2. Thanks Prathibha. I cannot wait to go back myself! :)